If you are pregnant with your first child or just had your first baby, congratulations! No doubt since the minute you told people you were pregnant, you started to receive myriads of advice, of course all well meaning. Even advice from utter strangers sharing their opinion on the best birth, best pram, best sleep routine and even the sex of your child!
When I was pregnant with my first baby and even from the minute I gave birth, I often found the advice conflicting. The very first night I had my baby, I couldn’t get her to sleep. She was born at 3.25pm after a LONG time in labour and by midnight, we had slept maybe an hour. My husband had gone home and I was in a ward with another mum – who was also a first time mum. After trying everything I knew to do with a 6-hour-old baby, I buzzed for the midwife. She was quite gruff. She grabbed my baby, burped her for about 30 seconds until two great big burps came out, swaddled her as tightly as she could, lay her in the plastic bassinette next to my bed and said ‘go to sleep’. She was with me for max 10 minutes. My baby did sleep, but I woke to every little whimper and noise and must have checked on her every 10 minutes.
At about 3am, we were both wide-awake again. So again, I fed my baby, burped her, changed her and I still couldn’t get her to settle. Exhausted myself, I buzzed for the midwife again at about 6am. A different midwife came. She had a much calmer approach. She helped me refeed my baby, swaddle her and told me how beautiful she was.
She took one look into my exhausted eyes, lay me down on the bed and tucked my dear little baby in right next to me, put the rails up and we both slept peacefully for at least three hours.
Right then, I knew that I wanted to take the second approach of calm and loving parenting with my baby, rather than gruff and emotionless.
One of the best pieces of advice I read when I was a new mum came from Robyn Baker’s essential baby book, Baby Love. The piece of advice was; start as you mean to go on.
I started the journey into motherhood with the intent to be calm and loving, right from that moment of the second midwife.
Start as you mean to go on runs deeper than just setting your style of parenting. It applies to setting up your home, setting routines and establishing your own set of ‘guidelines’ as a mother. Establishing guidelines early will help you and your partner to be on the same page when parenting and make it easier for you to build that special bond between you and your baby.
There are so many different parenting styles and ways to be a parent, and no way is better than another. The way you choose will suit the needs of your family, you and your baby.
Here are some questions to help you establish some initial guidelines before you bring your newborn home:
- Do you intend to breastfeed your baby?
- Will your baby sleep in a cot, bassinet or other sleeping device? Or maybe co-sleep?
- Will your baby start off sleeping in your room or go in his own room? Or maybe sleep in a pram during the day and bassinet at night?
- How will you calm your baby down? Maybe with a bath or a walk in the pram?
- Will you stay in your pyjamas until lunchtime or is the ritual of a morning shower important to you?
- Will you use cloth or disposable nappies?
- Will your baby have a dummy or a cuddly toy?
- Will you wake your baby up to go and have a coffee with friends or attend a doctor’s appointment? Or reschedule because she is asleep?
- Will you have complete silence in your house or noise while baby is sleeping?
- Which parenting roles will you and your partner share?
- Will routines work for you or will you take a more laissez-faire approach?
The answers to some of these questions may change as you experience parenting. The important thing to remember is if something isn’t working for you and your family, you have the flexibility to change it.
While not everything has worked out from the start of my journey and carried on, my ideal to create a loving and calm family still remain.
As your child grows and situations change, your ideas morph to suit the age of your children and the challenges at different stages of development, however your general ideal and style of parenting will be set from the moment you bring your baby home.
Final tip: enjoy those special early snuggles and the journey that is motherhood!
About the Author:
Anna Partridge is a school teacher and mother of three children aged 9, 7 and 5. She is passionate about giving children the best start in life and helping mothers develop their own personal routines and ideals.